Q. Boundary Line Adjustment vs. Boundary Line Agreement? What’s the difference?

Boundary Line Adjustment vs. Boundary Line Agreement?

What’s the difference?

In both cases, a boundary line between two adjacent property owners is being changed or adjusted. The key differences are questions of jurisdiction and purpose. A Boundary Line Adjustment is usually sought if owners merely desire to exchange land and there is no dispute over the line.

In the case of a Boundary Line Adjustment, sometimes also referred to as a Lot Line Adjustment, the jurisdiction is with the local planning authority, either the county or city in which the property lies. A Boundary Line Adjustment involves an application, review fees and the requirement to meet the review criteria of the reviewing agency.

If owners are attempting to use a Boundary Line Adjustment (sometimes referred to a s a RCW BLA), to resolve a dispute, issues not directly related to the resolution of the conflict can come into play as a result of the requirement to meet the review criteria of the city or county. These “side” issues include such matters as resolving substandard access to the public road and meeting bulk zoning regulations such as lot width and area. A Boundary Line Adjustment, then, is an Administrative action by the city or county planning authority.

In contrast, a Boundary Line Agreement is a judicial action. The Washington State Legislature has given you, the property owner, the ability to resolve conflicts resulting from either poorly written deeds or encroachments. Read the law here. To keep these cases out of the courts, property owners have been granted the ability to resolve the dispute among themselves. The kinds of disputes which arise could be as minor as a fence that veers away from the deeded property line or as serious as a building on the wrong property. The conflict may be recent or it may have existed for decades. Whatever the reason, the conflict needs to be resolved. Typically, in the case of an RCW BLA to settle a dispute in the location of the boundary line, the exchange of land does not result in monetary compensation.

There can be some advantages to doing a Boundary Line Agreement versus a Boundary Line Adjustment.

Once the neighbors come to a verbal agreement, they can complete the process without the review of the local planning department. Issues which might make approval of a Boundary Line Adjustment application problematic may not need to be addressed.

What do I really need to do for a Boundary Line Agreement?

The State Law which allows you, the property owners, to resolve a boundary dispute through agreement requires two things:

1. Documents which describe the agreement and which convey title to the land being exchanged. Although not expressly required, it is strongly advised that you have an attorney experienced in real property law prepare these documents.

2. A Record of Survey map, prepared by a licensed surveyor, depicting both properties and the adjusted lines is filed with the County Recorder or Auditor.

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can’t I save money on an attorney by doing a Boundary Line Agreement instead of an Adjustment?

A: Remember, with an Adjustment, you will have to pay review fees to the city or county. You will still need conveyance documents even with an Adjustment and these should always be prepared by a competent attorney. Regardless, a Record of Survey prepared by a licensed surveyor is required.

Q: Most jurisdictions don’t require a Record of Survey for an Adjustment. Won’t it cost a lot more for a survey?

A: Not really. In most cases, the dispute has been discovered as the result of a survey. Often we can add the additional work to complete the agreement at a reduced overall cost. In any case, marking the new agreement line on the ground and filing a Record of Survey in the public records will help avoid future boundary conflicts. Even when a survey has not been completed and the owners become aware of the dispute by other means, a survey is almost always necessary to accurately define the extent of the disputed area and to properly prepare new legal descriptions.

Q: Why can’t you, the surveyor, prepare my agreement documents and deed?

A: Although licensed land surveyors who specialize in property boundary surveying are well versed in the laws and legal doctrines affecting real property, the preparation of agreements and deeds is viewed as the practice of law.

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